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An interesting subject optics, most people are under the miss-guided view that you should spend twice as much on your 'glass' as your rifle. Bearing in mind that I am an avid hunter both stalking and vermin control as well as a long range shooter out to 1000 yards, I find this to be utter rubbish. There is also a belief that because it has specific brands on the side it is significantly better than other optics available on the market, the top brands mainly produce excellent optics but the less expensive brands nowadays also produce good quality optics, they just don't charge as much!


So what makes a GOOD optic. There are a number of factors to look at when buying a scope and these are all equally important:

  • Clarity

  • Durability

  • Stability

  • Adjustability

  • Reticle

  • Warranty

Modern Asian optics are made to a high standard on equipment that is a similar quality to the equipment that European optics are manufactured on. One of the main advances I think is the way that the lenses are ground and the products that they are coated with. We select brands that offer all of the above and yes Hawke & some Nikko Stirling scopes offer all of the above.


Lets take each one in turn




Everyone wants a crystal clear scope, Swarovski are the best in the market (stop arguing optical measuring devices confirm this) closely followed by most other manufacturers! What makes a clear rifle scope lens? Many lenses each ground in a specific way and individually coated in light and colour enhancing chemicals before being constructed into the lens that you look through. Many of the brands that you may aspire to buy their lenses from Asia.  Lets put it this way, only US Optics in the states produce their own lenses so where do Nightforce, Vortex, Leupold etc. source their lenses - Asia! European manufacturers make their own lenses, many are coated by companies such as Meopta who have mastered the art of coating lenses. IT IS THE GRIND AND THE COATINGS THAT PROVIDE CLARITY not just the quality of the glass. The main difference in lenses is whether they are Chromatic or Apochromatic lenses.


Here's the science bit, all light turns into its constituent colours when passed through a lens and Chromatic lenses are okay and putting the image back together with the colours roughly in the same place, The down side is that over higher magnifications the image can look a little fuzzy but overall it is sufficient quality to use, especially over hunting distances. Apochromatic lenses have been fine tuned so that the constituent light falls back into the exact same place making the image much sharper. The cost of the scope is no guarantee that Apochromatic lenses have been used, they are not used in some of the top brands 'budget' scopes.




Regardless of your budget we all want a scope that will last. To most of us the optic represents a reasonable outlay so we want to know that our investment will last. Many of the top manufacturers place a minimum of ten years warranty on their products whether that be a £100 or a £1000 optic. In your choice of scope look for a one piece high grade aluminium tube, this is a sign of a quality scope that will last. It is more expensive to produce a scope chassis or tube in a single piece but they are much more durable and able to take the knocks associated with shooting so much better. Another good sign is the use of a high quality metal spring such as Beryllium to hold the erecter tube in place maintaining zero through the toughest of recoils.



Stability & Adjustability


Once we have mounted our scope we need to zero our scope then keep it zeroed. If the scope is calibrated correctly then it should be very straight forward to zero and then it should hold its zero for the lifetime of the scope. Most scopes that offer a ten year warranty will do this, you cannot hold zero better because you spent more money on a scope, it either holds zero or it doesn't. I hear all the time "yes but my Brand A scope holds it zero even if you take it off and use it as a football" - that's handy!!!


The quality of the turrets is important if you are using your scope for dialling your distance. The turrets must be manufactured using high precision engineering with a sensible amount of MOA per full turn of the turret, around 15 MOA or more per revolution is what you are looking for on a target scope. I put a £300 scope on my 1000 yard rifle to test it, many shooters said that I was wasting my time, I needed a 'Brand A' scope to shoot at 1000 yards effectively. Knowing the B.C. of my bullet and the speed that it shot at along with temperature, humidity and elevation I dialled my scope in for 1000 yards, the first shot was ½MOA too far right, the wind was more than predicted, the following five shots hit the V-Bull. As a test I dialled it back then dialled it up and yep - it hit the target. The manufacturer of this scope guarantees the accuracy and quality of the scope for ten years - it seems to me that I need to spend £300, anything more than that desire NOT a need.




There are two types of construction of a reticle, wire and glass etched. Wire reticles do not take the knocks so well or the constant recoil of centre fire rifles unless they are a heavy wire and therefore thick reticle such as the classic German Number 4 reticle. This reticle and was used for decades by scope manufacturers until the invention of glass etched. Now we have this the choice of reticles has gone through the roof, many of which are just too confusing to use.


Having a reticle that you like is important, having it fine enough so as not to obscure the target is more important for range shooting then live shooting whereby you need to actually see your reticle quickly and without constant adjustment or physically looking for it. Most hunting scopes have either a cross or centre dot that illuminates for low light shooting and maybe two aim points underneath, enough for most sensible hunters. Some target reticles have a complex array of lines and dots for aiming off, it may be useful if you run out of elevation or wish to aim off for wind but as I always dial for wind and elevation a simple reticle is what I require. Most optic manufacturers offer their scopes with a choice of reticles, even if it's only hunting and target format.




In Europe the lifetime warranty is limited by law to ten years. All of the scopes that we sell are at least ten year warranty some offer 30 year if your register your product on-line!




A quick word on zoom. The more zoom the harder it is to maintain clarity. The ultimate clarity is on a 8x56 scope as there are less lenses for the light to get through meaning better transmission and correction. However I find a fixed 8 too much for woodland stalking and too little for 100 yard target so I opt for a scope that will zoom. On my hunting rifles the standard 4 x zoom 3-12 is perfect. I hunt on 4x and use it on 12x at the range, no the point of impact does not change using the centre dot or cross. On my target scopes I still use 4x zoom with either 4-16 or 6-24 depending on distance but the latest Hawke and some of the more expensive brands use 6x 2.5-15 or 3-30 (have you sussed it yet 4x or 6x the bottom zoom) and Swarovski have just released the Z8i 8x but the last time I spent that much money I put keys in it and drove off!




As with most advice at The Country Sports Shop within reason we suggest that you buy the one you like that fits your budget. We don't recommend a 5x30x56 with tactical turrets scope on your hunting rifle, you will get a better image and light transmission from a 3-12x56. Conversely we do recommend tactical turrets on you target rifle allowing easy adjustment for windage and elevation at various distances for your target rifle. As to which one, the one you like most for your budget and with centre fire scopes from £250 you don't need a big budget to buy a high quality rifle optic.

The Country Sports Shop Ltd. The Old Kiln, Pottery Road, Bovey Tracey, Devon. TQ13 9DS

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